The paintings of Gustave Caillebotte depict striking Parisian street scenes, from Boulevard Haussmann and The Bridge of Europe looking out onto the Gare Saint-Lazare to Caillebotte’s best-known work, Paris Street, Rainy Day, which hangs in Chicago’s Art Institute today. Caillebotte has long been acknowledged as an important painter—and munificent patron—of the French impressionist movement. Yet his paintings, in their near-photographic precision, stand apart from the works of Renoir and Monet in important ways.
Gustave Caillebotte: An Impressionist and Photography sets out to explore the development of the artist’s distinctive style. Though there is no evidence that Caillebotte practiced photography, he took an early interest in the art form, influenced perhaps by his brother, the photographer Martial Caillebotte. As a result, Gustave Caillebotte’s paintings show an emphasis on realism and often take on the composition and perspective of a photograph as well, with figures toward the center in sharp focus, while those in the foreground or background remain indistinct. Karin Sagner and Max Hollein have carefully chosen from among Caillebotte’s works a selection of paintings that exemplify this characteristic of the artist’s style. They are presented here alongside critical essays and works by photographers who were Caillebotte’s contemporaries and shared an affinity for documenting the nineteenth-century French capital, including André Kertész, Wols and László Moholy-Nagy, Édouard Baldus, Charles Marville, and Eugène Atget.
While there have been many studies of Caillebotte’s work, this is the first book to publish his paintings side-by-side with a selection of early photographs taken between 1850 and 1930. Together, they establish Caillebotte as the pioneer of a radically modern photographic form that added a new dimension to French impressionism and exerted an important influence on later photography.